New Directions of Thought.
Blair looked at his box of papers and shrugged off the feeling of misery. Jim was right, he was going to have to make a decision. He couldn't continue working three jobs and supposedly work on a dissertation. So here he was, looking through every paper he had ever written in his college career. He started with his undergrad papers, putting a few of them aside because he liked the topic. Moving through to his Master's works, he found his alternate thesis and pulled that out too, along with the papers that were on the same topic, making a separate pile for them. There weren't that many for his Ph.D. level classes so he decided to leave those alone, concentrating on the ones in front of him. Two of the undergrad papers got refiled, their topics would take too much work to turn into his new dissertation. One of his papers actually matched his alternate thesis topic so it went into that pile. One paper stood out though. He had gotten a 'C' on it, but he had liked the topic. The bad grade had more to do with him having too broad a topic, but that would be fine for a dissertation.
He sat and considered the pile and the paper, trying to decide which to work on. He pulled out his box of diskettes to see which ones had the stuff he needed.
Blair faced off with his dissertation advisor, frowning at him for farting. "Man, this is serious."
"I know, Sandburg. We've all been waiting for you to admit you're never going to be able to finish that other one." He put his feet up on his desk, which was much too neat for him to be doing any real work. "Are you giving it up?"
"No, I'd need another two years to finish my original topic to my satisfaction, so I'm switching topics." Blair pushed his hair back behind his ears. "With the store and working with Jim, plus the stress with my mother, there's no way I have time to work on the topic I love so I'm going to switch to a backup topic that I've worked on over the years." His advisor nodded. "I can have three chapters in your hand for a preliminary review in two weeks."
His advisor sat up, his feet hitting the floor. "Two weeks?" Blair nodded. "What about work?"
"I'm working off some of my old papers, which I saved. And since I happen to work in a bookstore, it's not like I can't get materials." He smiled. "Most of what I have to do is update the research, rearrange the old paper, and rework some of the language. Two weeks. The rest should be done before spring break is over with, depending on how much new research has gone into the field."
"Then you're planning on graduating at the end of this semester?"
"With any luck," Blair said firmly. "I can probably lean on Jim to help me if I get stuck with some very long hours, but I should be able to get it done within a few months. It's a unique topic, and one that fits into my area of speciality."
"Which is," Blair took a deep breath and made his final decision. He'd been bouncing back and forth all morning, but he had to decide now. "Ancient stereotypes applied to modern immigration. You know, how the stereotypes have continued into this day and age and are being applied to the newer groups?"
"That might have been done," his advisor warned. "Can you find a new angle?"
"If not, I have a backup. It's more Socio-History though." His advisor waved. "Cultural stereotypes from Ancient Civilizations that are being perpetuated in today's world. I can also compare and contrast with smaller, native cultures and how they've never picked up the fads of the popular cultural iconography. It happens in a lineage sort of way. Greek and Roman stereotypes were fed into European cultures, and eventually forced onto the Russians. Eastern ones were forced onto the American and European cultures when we started to really deal with them. It's almost an infection in the line of succession of civilizations."
His advisor thought, apparently very slowly. "Do your backup. Get something to me in two weeks. The more the better, but I won't make you have it all done." Blair grinned. "You'll have to defend in March to graduate in May."
"Deal," Blair said, pulling something out of his backpack. "I spent enough time pulling all the papers together and have an outline for you." He handed it over; it was a good thing that he had prepared both, just in case. "I can have at least three chapters done in two weeks."
"Good." He read it over, then smiled. "Excellent actually." He handed back the outline. "Are you going to publish your other topic?"
"If I do, I'm going to make it more general. My research won't be for the general public. My findings, yes. The people I studied, no." Blair stuffed the outline back into his bag. "It's cool that I change it?"
"It's fine, as long as you think you can do it."
Blair nodded, giving him a confident smile. "I can do it. Don't worry about it." He zipped his backpack and stood up. "Thanks." He walked out, heading for his own office. He needed to talk to Simon. He found Joel waiting. "Hey, man, problems?"
"Your mother's freaky," Joel told him with a smile. "She wants me to quit eating meat."
Blair sat down and looked at him. "Don't get sucked in," he warned. "She does that, picks someone and sucks them in before they know what's going on. She did it to Simon." He snorted. "Hell, she hit on Jim for a few days." He frowned. "Trust me, you will regret it when she leaves."
"I've heard Simon call her Hurricane Sandburg," Joel admitted. "I'll do my best to ignore the evils of temptation. Are you coming in today?"
"I have to talk to Simon so I probably will. Why?"
"Because Simon sent me with orders to make sure you don't come in. He's been ordered to give you the week off so you're ready for the trial." He smiled. "Also, he said you might appreciate having the time to do something called sleeping."
Blair grinned. "Yeah, I'd appreciate that a lot, but I've just promised to have my new diss. in by March. All old work, but a little bit of research time. I could use the week though." He stood up and grabbed a few things off his desk. "Tell him to come over for supper if he doesn't have anything else going on. I'm heading home to hit the 'net and see if anything's changed since I did my papers." His backpack was restuffed and he left the office, closing the door as soon as Joel walked out. He waved and headed for his car. Yeah, he could go home, get comfortable, and lounge on the couch. Then his phone rang. "Hey," he answered. "Hey, Jim. What's up?" He stopped walking and listened. "Do you need me?" He smiled. "Cool. No, Simon just gave me the week off and I'm going to go home and do a little school work. Can you handle the store tonight?" His grin got brighter. "Cool. Yeah, no." He started walking again. "I changed my diss topic a few minutes ago. No, based on some of my old papers. It was actually my backup topic for my Master's thesis." He laughed. "Yeah, so I've got a lot of it done. Mostly rearranging, checking to see if any new research was added, that sort of thing. March." He pulled out his keys as he hit the parking lot, going right to his car. "Sure, invite him over too. I told Joel to invite Simon over for dinner. I'll even cook real food, something we've been lacking these last few months." He opened his door and looked down at his seat, frowning. "Jim, get someone over here." He pulled his key from the door and walked as fast as he could away from his car, flagging down a passing security guard. "Someone poured blood on my car seat," he told the guard. He listened to Jim. "No, don't close the store, Jim. Yeah, that's mine," he told the guard, who had gone over to look at it. "Hey, I can always come work there, I just can't do it in my sweats and a t-shirt. Yeah, I'll head over as soon as we figure out what's going on." He hung up and sighed. "No relaxation for me," he told himself. "Anything?" he called.
"Just looks like blood, Professor," the guard said as he walked back over. "Was it locked?"
"I didn't check before I unlocked it," Blair admitted. "I always lock it though." He frowned at his car. "I can't wait for this trial to be over with."
"That cult case. I helped figure out who was doing it." Blair ran his hands through his hair. "Ellison's sending someone over." He jumped when he felt someone tap him on the shoulder. "Joel!"
"Sorry, Sandburg. What's going on?"
"There's blood on his car seat," the guard told him. "Should I start taking his statement now, or would you like to, Detective?"
"I'll do it," Joel told him, watching him leave. "You stay here," Joel warned before walking over to the car. It exploded just before he stepped off the grass.
Blair grabbed his phone and hit the emergency number. "This is Rainier, I just had my car explode. Officer down!" Then he dropped it and ran over, trying to check on Joel. The guard tried to push him out of the way, but Blair growled at him. "My coworker. Get help!" He pulled Joel away from the fire, hoping he was doing the right thing. Joel had been thrown a few feet, but he was breathing. He was scorched, but he was breathing. He ran back to his phone and hung it up, dialing Simon. "It's me," he said as soon as it was answered. "It was my car and the blast caught Joel. We need help!" He hung up and grabbed his backpack, pulling out his half- drank bottle of water. He searched around but he didn't have anything like cloth in there. So he took off his outer shirt and wet the bottom of it down, using it to wipe down his friend's face. "Come on, Joel. It's okay. Help's coming. Simon knows. Help's nearly here, I can hear the sirens." He continued to wipe down the reddened areas, hoping he was doing the right thing. He was rudely pushed aside by a paramedic. "That's Captain Joel Taggert, formerly of the Bomb Squad, now of Major Crimes. Our boss is coming." Both paramedics looked over at him. "I'm Ellison's partner."
One of the paramedics stood up and looked him over. "What happened?"
"Someone had poured blood on my car seat and Joel was going over to look at it. It'd been a few minutes so I guess the timer had a pretty good lead. It exploded as he stepped onto the pavement. I pulled him away from the heat of the fire and I wiped down his face." He started to fidget. "I called...." His breath broke.
"It's all right, you did the right thing," the paramedic told him, picking up his arm to look at it. "That feel okay? No torn stitches from moving him?" Blair shook his head. "All right, I want you to sit down by Captain Taggert's head and talk to him. Got me?" Blair nodded and did as he was told. The paramedics shared a look and the first one continued to spread some sort of gel over the burned areas.
"Joel, I'm really sorry they got you when they were coming for me," Blair told him. "I really am. I'm going to find the people who did it and make them sorry." He sniffed. "I might even pull an Ellison on them."
Jim came running up to them and grabbed Blair, holding him tightly. "Are you all right?" Blair nodded, still not able to speak without crying. "It'll be okay. Joel's a tough guy."
"Did Simon call you? I called him." Blair rested against his love's body, taking comfort from it. He didn't care who saw.
Jim patted Blair on the back. "Yeah, Simon called me. He'll meet us at the hospital." He grabbed Blair's pack with one hand and led him to the truck, stopping to ask where Joel was going to be taken. Together, they got into the rental truck and headed for the University's hospital.
Simon walked into the waiting area, not frowning as much as he had been when he got there. He sat down beside Blair, patting him on the knee. "The Bomb Squad Captain just called. The timer was a watch and the alarm looked to be set correctly." Blair sniffled. "They set it to scare you, not to hurt anybody."
"Well, they did," Blair said coldly. "And I want them."
"We all want them," Jim reminded his friend. Blair was seriously into his revenge kick and it was scary. Blair didn't do revenge. "Any idea on whom it is?"
Simon sighed as he shifted back some. "Yeah, we have an idea. One of your cases exposed a very dirty cop. They think it's a warning for you two not to testify against him in his upcoming trial."
"The bomb in my truck wasn't to scare us off," Jim reminded him quietly. "It would have killed us."
Blair took Jim's hand and gave it a squeeze. "When is that trial?"
"It's the McGregor case," Jim told him. "That's the last time I had a run-in with IA."
Simon nodded. "It is. And the civilian suspect is coming up for trial in three weeks. Helms is going to testify, or so I'm informed by the higher ups, but he's got people who are still trying to cover for him." He looked down the hallway again. "It could have been much worse," he told Blair. "You and Joel could have been right beside the car." Blair nodded. "As of right now, you're both on leave; Jim, yours is paid. I'll have someone watching the store and your loft, the Chief even agreed without me having to explain myself." He shifted again. "Apparently he's known for a while that someone *might* do something like this. He warned everybody but us." That got stereo frowns. "Sandburg, I want you to stay home if possible. With the cult thing coming up next week, you'll need the time to rest."
Blair shook his head. "I can do it at the store. We're not that busy right now and we have part- time workers again as of Thursday." He looked at Jim. "Who did you leave the store with?"
"Steve. He popped in a few minutes before you called. He told me to go and he'd close up. He was going to come over tonight for dinner." He smiled. "I called him while you paced down in the ER. He's waiting back at the loft for us."
"Okay." Blair nodded. "I'm sure he knows how to deal with a register and all that." He looked at Simon. "We'll accept the guards, but I'm not staying home. The store is my responsibility and I'll run it." He missed the grimace on Jim's face. He squeezed Jim's hand. "I don't know whether or not I'm ready to do it without Jim yet, but I'm working on lightening my load so I don't have to worry about it so much."
Simon smiled. "Good. I'm glad to hear that." He smiled at Jim. "You still have almost a month of leave left, this present leave isn't being taken out of it. Do you want to take it now?"
Jim nodded. "Yeah, I think I should. I don't want things to happen at the station, there'll be too many casualties if someone tries something."
"Agreed," Simon said, pulling out some folded papers from his back pocket. "Here's an accounting of how many days you have left. I've applied for all of them for you. The Chief said your saved days will start once the cult trial starts." He stood up. "I'm going to go home. I'll come over for dinner tomorrow night," he promised.
Blair looked up at him. "Okay. I'll cook, we'll eat. I'll even show you my new diss topic." He gave his friend a faint smile. "We'll be okay."
"You can both go home," the nurse suggested. "Mr. Taggert won't be waking up tonight. We've been ordered to sedate him and there *are* those other cops outside his door."
"I'm sending Rafe and Brown down to relieve them," Simon told her. "These two'll be back sometime tomorrow." He walked away, heading to check on Joel one last time.
Blair looked over at Jim. "Have I thanked you for taking all that accumulated leave to help me?" Jim shook his head. "Thank you. I know you're ready to go back to being a cop, I'm going to try and learn harder now." He stood up and walked way, heading for the bathroom.
Jim slumped a little. "I can wait," he told Blair's chair.
Blair leaned on the counter, reading the journal he had found in the mail that morning. Someone cleared their throat and he smiled at them. "Yes, may I help you?"
The woman smiled. "I was wondering where your other children's books were? The traditional ones?"
Blair pointed at the children's section. "The fairytales are on the last set of shelves, around the middle. Want me to show you?" She nodded and he walked around the counter, following him back to the children's section. "My father, the original owner, decided to import children books from all over the world," he explained. "He thought that the newer versions were pretty great." He stopped and pointed at a bottom shelf. "We put the 3-6 years-olds' books down there so they can sit down and pull them out to look through them. And these," he said as he walked over to another shelf, "are the fairytales." He pulled down one. "This is a copy of the older ones. We have the more modern ones and even those," he shuddered, "politically correct ones on the same shelf." He handed it over with a smile.
"You don't like the politically correct ones?"
Blair leaned against a shelf. "I like the idea, but the way most of them were done took all the fun and the fantasy out of the stories." He grinned. "I was brought up on native legends more than fairytales, but I have fond remembrances of wanting to be a dwarf because they seemed to have such fun jobs. Who wouldn't want to go dig up gems that weren't buried too deeply." She smiled. "When I read the updated version, it was okay, but the politically correct version seemed so much flatter. Almost like they tried to take the fantasies out of it and just make it something to kill time." He reached behind himself and pulled down a set of tied books. "These were always my favorite," he told her. "I had a very worn-out set until my apartment blew up." She took the books to look over. "Not the most politically correct, but excellent stories. If I can help you any more, just yell. I'm Blair." He walked away, leaving her alone.
She smiled at his back, but kept the tied set of books. He obviously was a reader and knew what to get. She put back the fairytales and decided on the updated versions instead of the politically correct ones. She could explain to her daughter about not needing a prince later. She sat down on the floor to look at the books, picking out a large stack for her darling. She would be back here many times.
Blair looked up as Jim walked in, smiling at him. "Hey, how was the station?"
"Very quiet whenever I walked through a room," Jim admitted. He tossed his jacket into the office, watching as it landed in the chair, then came back to help Blair at the register. "Brown joked that none of them wanted to be blown up so they were staying away."
Blair snorted. "With their luck, it'll be the whole squadroom and you'll have just left." He handed over his journal. "Read that. It's about your tribe." He walked over to tap the student working the register. "Go take a break. I'll do this part." She smiled and jogged off to the break area.
Jim put down the journal so he could pull over a chair and read it in comfort. "Is it good?"
"It's a good study. Biased, but decent. He's got a 'higher education is best' bias but he did a good job."
"She," Jim corrected, smiling as he held up the last page with the researcher's picture on it.
"Huh. I thought it was a guy I knew." He shrugged. "That makes it even more impressive. Most of the people who give grants won't fund a woman going into the field." He turned as someone walked up to the register. "Did you find everything you wanted?" The man held up a gun. "Um, Jim?"
Jim looked up and pulled out his badge, holding it up. "I'll give you ten seconds," he told the would-be robber. The guy ran, right into the rest of Major Crimes, who were following Jim in to find gifts for a new mother in the unit. "Thanks, guys," he called, waving.
Blair laughed. "Nice delegation there, Jim." He pointed at a seating group. "Handcuff him to the lamp while you look. We'll make sure he won't run until the uniforms get here." Rafe took the offer, handcuffing the guy to a wrought-iron floor lamp before going to search for a book. "What was it?" Blair yelled after them.
"Boy!" Henry Brown yelled back. "Little, with a big head. Where's the baby care stuff?"
"Top floor, next to the fern," Jim called. He looked at Blair. "Why is it on the top floor?"
"Because most women who buy them are early in their pregnancies. Later on, they've already got the books or have had enough advice to write their own." Blair leaned on the counter. "The name books are down on this level, as are the 'first year' books. But we're allowed to go up and get books for anyone who can't make it up the stairs."
"Good. I like that." Jim went back to reading. "They talked to a tribe near mine, not mine."
"Point," Jim agreed. He looked up when he heard the crash, frowning at Blair. "Didn't I warn you that the glass was going to fall on that display case?"
"Yeah, yeah," Blair muttered as he went for a trash can. "I'll clean it up." He opened the back of the display case and started picking out the larger pieces of glass. He would grumble, but he was satisfied. Right then, at that moment, everything made sense for the first time in a long time. He was happy.
An alarm went off upstairs and Jim sighed, getting up to go check the back door. "I'll go chase them down," he told Blair as he walked past him. "Make a sign so you have time to clean the things in there."
Blair grabbed some paper and a pen, writing out a simple sign about the broken glass, hanging it on the front of the case.
TO BE CONTINUED...